OZARK, Mo. Radon is a radioactive colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is often the single largest contributor to how much radiation your body is getting daily.
"When I talk with my friends they'll often say 'I can't see the radon, I can't smell it, it must not be a real thing,'" said Steve Mirowski. "And my retort to that is 'I can't see taxes and they're killing me!'"
Mirowski is a house inspector whose work includes checking radon levels so he knows it's real and that it differs from home-to-home, accumulating mainly in low areas like basements and crawl spaces.
"It's the make up of the soil beneath the house," Mirowski answered when asked why the levels vary from place-to-place. "If it's rich in uranium, the uranium gives off the radon gas and it's affected by barometric pressure and moisture in the soil."
"It's something that's not emphasized enough in the public," said Mercy pulmonologist Dr. Sadaf Sohrab. "Being in the soil it can enter your house if you have any cracks in your foundation or have ground water coming in or drains in the floor."
"I've heard of it but didn't know much about it," said Andrew Wilson, who just bought a home in Ozark. He explained that his real estate agent suggested that he get the home tested.
"Obviously you want to protect your kids," said the married father of two children.
"And the best time to find out if you have high radon is when you're buying the house," Mirowski added. "Because often the sellers will pay to mitigate the house. Not always, but that's typically it."
Getting rid of high-levels of radon is done with a vent pipe and fan system and it's important because according to the EPA, 21,000 people die from radon-related lung cancer each year.
"The reason why it's dangerous inside the house is because the concentration can reach high levels, Dr. Sohrab said. "Because there's not a lot of ventilation, the air's not moving in and out so that makes it even more dangerous. Radon is present outdoors as well but it's diluted."
Mirowski recalls a family with two teenage boys who had levels of radon in their home equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes per day.
"They did everything they could to take care of their kids and they might as well have had them smoking their entire lives," he said.
So when deciding if you should should check your house's levels remember it's better to be safe than sorry.
"It's just an easy fix and it just makes sense," Mirowski said.
"It's a silent killer," added Dr. Sohrab. "It kills without you even knowing you were exposed to it. That makes it even more important (to test)."
Radon testing by a professional usually runs between $100-$ 200 dollars depending on the home's construction and location.
Do-it-yourself Kits run the gamut in price-range but most are within $15-$40. However, Missouri's Department of Health does offer free testing kits on its website at https://drhomeair.fmbetterforms.com/#/missouri-free.